In the first of a series of articles, Valerie Douglas talks Self Editing – we’re storing them on our pages, so they don’t flow away in the blog stream 😀
One of the first things they should tell you in writing classes or seminars is that in a novel, it’s all about the action. It’s about doing things. Show don’t tell. People don’t ‘begin’ to do things, they don’t ‘start’ to do things, they DO them. For example – ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to begin nibbling at her hair again’ vs. ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to nibble at her hair again.’ Which sounds better? (Smoke is a horse, by the way.) Don’t have your characters begin or start to do anything unless it’s the first in a series of actions. When self-editing do a search for begin and start.
We don’t often feature these products on the group blog, but this is one designed for indie authors, and it doesn’t have affiliate links AND you can donate 10% to charity, so we thought we’d see how it went.
Storybundle and HumbleBundle feature products in ‘bundles’ at a significant amount of money off, and if you’re looking to study or intake information, this bundle is a great one for at least one or two perspectives to give you something to think about in the indie author community. Plus, it’s something that the mod team talk about a lot – making sure that the advice we’re listening to isn’t from people just recycling information or not sharing from experience.
Here’s the blurb:
From curator Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Hundreds of writing books get published every year, and most of those books are written by people who have written…a book on writing. I kid you not. These people have a method or a scheme or they teach a writing class—even though I have no idea how they get those gigs. (Okay, I do. They get an MFA, which universities seem to think is more important than actual writing experience.)
Those writing books have nothing in common with the writing books in this bundle. Together, the authors of the books in The Write Stuff 2016 Bundle have more than two-hundred years of writing experience, and have contributed more than five hundred award-winning and bestselling books (fiction and nonfiction) to the world of literature.
We know writing, the writing life, and what makes a writing career. And we want to share it all with you.
You can grab your bundle here. And keep checking back on the blog as we talk about the advice we’re working on for you guys ourselves!
Write a good book and finish it. Do not even consider self-publishing until it’s finished, with good cover art and editing.
Write at least two and up to five more books before releasing Book One, even if it’s in another genre – nothing sells Book One like Book Two, Three, etc.
Give the first book to beta readers for evaluation – give them a time to return it to you with their critiques/evaluation.
Hire an Editor (there’s a list in Files)
Find Cover artist (there’s a list in Files). If money is tight, find an artist you like and see if they offer pre-made covers.
If you’re not a geek, hire a formatter (A good formatter will prep for all sites.)
Write your bio in something like Wordpad (text files are easy to copy paste.) Write it in the third person, as if someone else was describing you. Try to keep some of it light and a little humorous.
Write the blurb for your book(s). There is no easy way to do one. Keep it concise – give hints to the genre, make it enticing, give a little information on your main character(s). The object is to entice readers to want to read your book, don’t give away the entire plot. (ex. Jack, an expert hill-climber, and Jill, a novice, are climbing a difficult hill, will they make it to the top?)
When the book has been edited, the cover is complete, it’s time to set up promotion. (*grins* List in Files, but apply to Bookbub or E Reader News Today)a.) Set up a release date for at least three weeks in advance. b.) Decide whether to use Kindle Direct Publishing Select (recommended) or other venues. c.) Decide whether to do a pre-releasec.) Send out ARCs (Advance Release Copies) to other authors, bloggers, etc.d.) Decide which promotion sites to use (List in Files)e.) Do a cover releasef.) Set up an event page – with your blurb, the inspiration for characters – and offer a free copy as a prize for one of the people who responds.
Post to Amazon KDP Select.
Categories (genre/subgenre. See list of BISAC codes here in Files. Ex. Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, and the subgenre – Fantasy *Urban* or *Epic* or Mystery *hard-boiled*) and keywords (special tags that describe your book – Fantasy – Epic – keyword Arthurian or Sword & Sorcery.)
Use the Kindle Select free days – split 3-2. (Save the two spare days for a special occasion or to boost sales)
Set up an Author Central page on Amazon.
Set up a separate Facebook author page.
Take off the check-mark to automatically re-enroll in KDPS if you choose. Upload to other sites – B&N, Kobo, D2D, Smashwords when your Select days are finished.
First,read. Read a lot. (Stephen King, paraphrased – “if you don’t have time to read, you can’t write.”) Reading will teach you how to write, how to write well, and how to write compelling characters.
Corollary – read the genre you’re writing in, that will teach you the ins and outs of that genre, and it may inspire a story.
Second, are you a pantser or a plotter? If you’ve tried to write several books but haven’t been able to finish (pantsing), try writing an outline (plotting). If writing an outline kills the story for you, you’re a pantser, stop outlining and write the story.
Third, every good writer has dozens of starts and stops behind them. Some were completed. Some died in the writing. None of them were published. They were learning their craft. Learn your craft. If this is your first novel, put it in a drawer. Read in that genre. Come back to that book. It’s okay if you realize it’s crap. You write crap to become a better writer. Really good writers like Stephen King, wrote a lot, and started early. His first book “I was a Teenage Grave Robber” was independently published while still in high school. His first professional short story, “The Glass Floor” was published in a magazine.
Fourth, writers create worlds that might exist, have existed or exist only in the imagination. If you have to ask how to write a particular genre, you need to read more, see more movies, and use your imagination. Other writers write their stories. You have to write your own.
Fifth, write because you love it, because you have to do it, because you care about the story or the reason behind writing that story. If you’re not doing it because you love it, if you’re doing it for fame or money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Most writers will not get rich writing. They might make money, but only a few get rich.
Corollary – if you can quit, if it’s too hard and reviewers are mean, if you’re not driven to write, you’re in the wrong business. Who told you this writing thing was easy? Whoever they were, they lied. If it’s too hard, stop complaining and quit.
Sixth – If you don’t feel it – love, heartache, joy, grief, whatever – your readers won’t. Care – about the characters, the story, and why you needed to write it. Tears in the writer, tears in the reader. Laughter in the writer, laughter in the reader. Fall in love with the character(s).
Seventh – who is/are your main character(s). What’s their history, what motivates them, what do they need, what do they have to overcome? (Think about your favorite novels and the characters in it.) Pantser know their characters, plotters learn them. Until the reader knows those characters and what they care about, they don’t know what the story is about, and they won’t care what happens to the people in it.
Eighth, write more books. The best writers in the world wrote multiple books. Some tried to publish their first ones and received rejection letters of varying types. The good rejection letters told them why it was rejected. Indie writers don’t have that, they have readers. If this is your first book, write at least two more, if not four more. Readers want to follow an author they love. Give them something to follow.
Ninth – If the story isn’t working ask yourself why you’re writing it? If you’re writing it for the money, or because it’s a popular genre, you’re writing for the wrong reasons.
Are you trying to force your characters in a direction the people you created won’t go? Then follow the logic. Every good writer has discovered a story where the characters say “oh, no, I am NOT going there” because it’s not true to or for that character. Always stay true to the characters you’ve created. A good guy doesn’t suddenly turn bad, there has to be a reason. A bad boy character doesn’t suddenly change his stripes in a novel any more than he would in real life.
Tenth, what’s the story you’re trying to tell? Why should readers care? What are you trying to say?
Eleventh, How do you write? There is only one way – Apply seat to chair and fingers to keyboard. Write the story. Don’t listen to the naysayers, the doubters, or your own insecurities (there’s no such thing as a secure writer, the best are insecure because it makes them question their writing). Just write.
Twelfth, show don’t tell. Characters do things. Show them doing, either by describing it, or have them say in dialog what they’re doing and why.
The story is done when the story is done, when the characters have said everything the reader needs to know. Don’t know the ending? Take a step back. Talk to your characters. Ask yourself how you want it to end. Write that. If you can’t, it’s likely that you’re pushing the story in the direction you want it to go, not the direction it wants to go.
More than anything else, though, write the story. Do it because you love it. You’re the only one who can write that story. The story is the only thing that matters.
Is there a guarantee that it will be a best-seller? No. But a book(s) can’t be a best-seller if it’s not written.
I n all honesty I suspect that Scribd found the path of least resistance in their romance/erotica decision. (Witness the petitions to Jeff Bezos/Amazon asking him to change the review policy.) The truth of the matter is likely to be a more harsh reality – a lot of romance/erotica readers were downloading books, finding them to be dreck and so they didn’t finish them, they just deleted them off their e-readers and went onto the next. Scribd, however, still had to pay the writer for the unread book. So, rather than try to evaluate hundreds of thousands of e-books, they just decided not to carry the vast majority of romance/erotica.
Here is the truth. Amazon/Jeff Bezos owes us nothing. If you want tea and sympathy, go to Smashwords. Mark Coker is a genuinely nice person and will offer you a great deal of encouragement. However, Smashwords also pays quarterly, not monthly, so be prepared to wait for the check. Also post to B&N, Kobo and D2D for the most bang for your post. You’ll make a fraction of what you make with Amazon, but there you go. Understand that Amazon is a business – a business that provides a venue for Indie authors to post their books and – possibly – make money at it. Indie authors are a drop in the vast bucket of products Amazon offers. The vast majority of their profits come from the Big Five publishers and all the other products Amazon offers. Be ungrateful for the opportunity, become enough of a pain in the butt and they’ll drop the program like the annoying hot potato it’s become.
Sadly, a large number of Indie authors came into the game thinking ‘oh, yeah, I can write my novel at long last’, it’s easy and I can make money at it. As many of you have now noticed, the easy bit is harder than most thought. Writing a book isn’t necessarily easy, and writing a good book is even harder still. Even worse, some folks are still looking for the magic wand that will write the book for them. Some also turned to Indie writing because they suspected that the Big Five wouldn’t take them (not to mention the fact that the author gets a pittance of what the publisher gets. We need a Taylor Swift for that.) And that’s before you get to the marketing. Then there’s the cover art, the editing, formatting and deciding where to upload it. Too many are taking shortcuts, unfortunately, skipping over the most important, the most expensive, and the hardest parts of the process – editing and cover art. Just take a look at many of the Indie books being offered. (Especially the erotica since the explosion of 50 Shades.)
Think this is harsh? Take a look at Scribd, a subscription service much like Kindle Unlimited. They’re removing a vast number of romance/erotica novels – even good ones. Why? They say that too many readers are downloading so many books they’re putting them out of business.
Regarding reviews… Remember the comment about Scribd and the crappy books? It might be overly simplistic, but there is some degree of truth there. Most of those awful books didn’t get reviews saying they were awful. They were just deleted. For all we complain about the mean people out there, most people really aren’t and it takes time to write a review. Rather than take the time, they just deleted and moved on. Want to get reviews? Understand that unless you write something people want to write a review about – and even if they do – most won’t. It takes time. Try to write something good enough they’ll want to review.
Want to get your reviews removed or to devalue reviews? Forget to ask those people who received ARCs or free copies to add ‘I received this book in exchange for an honest review’ to their review so Amazon won’t pull it. Participate in easily trackable review exchanges or give positive reviews to books you haven’t purchase or read. That’ll do it.
If you think Indie publishing is hard, try traditional. Write query letters to agents/publishers, gather rejections, hope for the moment they ask for a revise and resubmit, or a request for a partial or a full, get your hopes up, get them squashed when they decide not to take your novel because it’s not a reiteration of King or Roberts or Sparks or James, or whoever is the flavor of the moment. (For perspective, where is the writer of Twilight right now?) Then, TADA, you find a publisher who will take you. HURRAY. And then you discover you’ll still have to do the editing as well as a large part of the marketing, just to be a mid-list writer – unless you’re one of the rare few who make it big. Or you can follow the Hugh Howey model and write a unique novel, self-publish it, and let the publishers find you. (By the way, he can now afford a boat. A biggish boat.)
The best things in life aren’t free – they take work. Do you want reviews for your book? Do the work. Make people want to review it, but also understand they they don’t have to.
Yes, it really did need two posts! There was a LOT of information! I was getting overwhelmed, so if I misrepresent things, forgive me!
Hunter Boyle spoke about using e-mail to keep in contact with your fans and to build your fan base. He also advocated setting higher expectations, creating e-mail connections with the offer of a freebie. Create a compelling call to action – i.e. Sign up now to receive a free excerpt or copy of “Title” – so people will sign up to your newsletter or e-mail.
There was also discussion of using paper.li (I have a paper.li newspaper) by directing it to fans of your genre(s), and to help promote other writers. Connect with authors in your genre(s) and interact with them and their fans. DON’T promote. If those fans like you, and like your input, they’re more likely to check out your writing.
Deb Carney of Bookgoodies and Vinnie O’Hare from Awesomegang were a great tag team. (Another appears later.) If you’re not using their pages, you should be. Both are very generous in helping indie/self-published writers. They discussed Fast and Easy Ways to find your True Fans and Rabid Readers with Social media. They talked about using Hootsuite effectively and other twitter software like Shareist, Buzzsumo and Click2Tweet. They broke down each very effectively. I suggest experimenting with things like Hootsuite.
Andrea Vahl is a Facebook marketing Expert, and she advised not using boosts, but rather targeted ads – putting money in your pocket, not Mr. Zuckerberg’s, he’s rich enough. Track your progress. Do split testing – running the same ad with differences in focus or description. Run conversion tracking. How many clicks became sales?
As many of you may know, I’m a huge proponent of having professional covers made by professional cover artists. Derek Murphy echoed what I, and many of my cover artist friends, often advise – don’t expect a cover artist to recreate that great scene from the book. For one thing, that scene is probably too busy. Since all cover artists use stock art (even the Big Five) it’s very difficult to find an image that will match, and to create it will be that much more expensive. Earlier in the day, J. Thorn had shown the difference between a self-made cover, a professional cover, and the difference they made in sales.
As a cover artist, Derek was able to show that even more clearly by showing and discussing the difference between a good cover and a great one. He advocates using faces to help convey the basic emotion of the book. What was refreshing about him was his willingness to help self-publishers. For a full cover he’s probably outside the range of most new writers, but he does offer advice on how to improve the cover you have. He has a webpage called http://diybookcovers.com/to help those who want to create their own covers. He also created a neat little program where you can post your cover and folks – including him – will vote whether it’s effective or not. If he thinks he can help make your cover better, he’ll contact you. (Don’t expect him to do that for free!)
The closing/keynote address was delivered by the other tag-team – Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt from the Self-Publishing podcast. One of their key points was the difference between strategy and tactics. Tactics is running a freebie, strategy is using freebies effectively as part of an overall plan while also remaining flexible. That was another point – being willing to pivot – to make changes. My other favorite phrase – The only constant is change. You have to be willing to change, too.
For all of you who thing that the gatekeepers have gone away, you’re wrong. There are more than ever. They used to be the editors for the Big Five. Now there are new gatekeepers – they’re called readers. You need to engage and connect with them, and you do that by being personal and personable. Act professional. Put out a professional product.
If this seems to be a little overwhelming, take it in bites. Get edited. Check to see if your cover art is effective. Keep writing. The number of one-book-wonders can be measured on one hand, maybe two if you stretch it.
When you’re not writing take a look at other authors in your genre, or that interest you. Like their page and interact with them and their fans. Set up your first audiobook with ACX. Learn a new promotional program – like Hootsuite, Paper.li – the following week.
Congratulations, you’re an authorpreneur.
Welcome to this weeks’ ‘weekly round up’. Featured moderator of the week is Valerie – please pop on over to her profile and say hiya, ask a question, let her know about your favorite book of hers. She loves to talk to other writers and readers!
It’s been a busy week here at IAG HQ, with blog updates and new features for writers that blog for us regularly. Now your profile can include your Amazon page link (after a minimum of one submitted article, you can have a login for the site), and we’ll soon be adding a way to feature up to five books on your profile. All you have to do is create a post for us and the bio and links back are all yours!
This week on the Indie Author Group
We’ve had some amazing questions on the group. Some really good answers too, so do click through and read the comments and add your own!
Rick Gualtieri asked where your sales are split by market.
We’ve had a fairly quiet week on the blog, but we did launch a whole new column type – the Quick Indie guides to…. Twitter! We’ll be sharing a new one every Friday. Next week is part 1 to the Facebook guide.
NEW feature – every week we’ll highlight a subgenre community. This week it’s the turn of the Sci-Fi community.
WE’ve got some great sci-fi writers there, who love to talk hard and soft sci-fi, world building, writing and more. Come join in! (all of our groups are featured here)
In a new feature, we’ve decided to provide some quick guides to various social networks, from our social media based moderator (Kai). Remember too, that we have our own Twitter and Facebook page, and will be launching a Pinterest profile for our members soon!
The Quick guide to Twitter
Twitter is a basic social network where you can post tweets, which are 140 characters or less. Tweets are designed to be short and sweet – they can contain hashtags (sort of like categories) and mention other members of twitter by username by using the @ symbol. Your tweets can also be retweeted, you can follow people and place them on lists.
Signing up to Twitter
Twitter is easy to sign up for – all you need is a unique email address and a username. That said, there are many limitations on usernames, mostly down to length and availability – Twitter is now a huge network, so even if you’re the same username everywhere else and don’t yet have a twitter account, you MAY not get the username you want. Continue reading →
Every week, one of the IAG moderators will round up what’s gone on, on the group and in the Indie community as a broader view. If you’ve been busy writing, editing, or promoting, let us catch you up and find conversations and blog posts that should interest you and dive into the information you’re really keen to see.
There are four e’s to indie publishing – four elements that just can’t be skimped on, or you’ll destroy yourself. That destruction will come from poor reviews, and your image, once damaged, is really difficult to repair. Once you’re known as a writer that doesn’t care about his/her product, though you’ll still gain readers, there will eventually be a barrier to your evolution as a writer, or even your ability to reach the next level.
So what are the four E’s?
Excellent story, editing, expert support for covers and formatting, that extra special push.
Each of these, coupled with writing more books, will give you the solid foundations you need as an indie writer to create the career of your dreams. Of course, those goals are yours to set.
It all starts there. If you’re bored with your own book, it’s possible that your readers will be too. But there’s a difference between ‘been looking at it for so long I’m bored with it’ and a boring book. If you’re not caught up in the rush of the story though, look at why. If it’s because you’ve been working with it for so long it’s making your eyes bleed, take a step back. If the story is weak or lacklustre, look at it again. Work on it.
There are elements to an excellent story, but the best guide is how you feel about it. And how your beta readers feel about it. If it gives you a rush, chances are it’s an excellent story.
I know a lot of people are going to be sceptical about this, as I’ve listed the next point as expert support, so, why have I split off editing from expert support. The short answer is that of all of the support you can get for your book, editing should be started while you’re getting your cover reveal and researching formatters. Covers and formatting are OF COURSE important, but editing needs to come first – it’s also a good priority to make because it gives you the time to get your cover done without it being rushed, and time to investigate your formatting needs, and find someone to work with. It’s always important to remember that just because your book is written, it’s still got a way to go, and you need to incorporate that into your timeline. Editing isn’t a rapid process, and it also gives you a bit of time away from your story.
Editing is important because it’s a new set of eyes on your book and a professional opinion on your book. Of course, you don’t need to take all of their recommendations, but professional editing is a must for any published book. And you should always self-edit first.
Covers and formatting come next. You can start your cover design while your book is out for editing, fo course, but your cover and your formatting is really getting you to the end of your professional polish and getting ready for your launch.
You should consider running a cover reveal or other launch for your fans – not only does it build your fan base, but will also get you the start of your launch.
Once edited, your book should be formatted. At this point you can work with your formatter, find the last of the errors (if there are any) and deal with anything that you’ve found. These professional touches, along with editing will place your book apart from those that don’t look for professional support.
That EXTRA special push
Most authors can’t market to save themselves, and find it very difficult to do so. And while it’s pretty much essential now, there are ways around it. You should launch your book, and you should capitalise on as much of the attention as you can, but longer term, you may want to either have a support structure and team to help you, or set aside time for marketing. Marketing is important, though there’s a difference between spamming people and interacting with them. Most marketers will work with you, not against you, and author services can range from posting to your social networks, to a full service website, much like our blog. It does come down to what you can afford of course, but do consider that professional marketing help might actually make back the rate they charge over the course of the project, and if they don’t, they WILL create more exposure for you in the short-term and you will make the money back eventually.
And then your book is out there, and you can start on the next book!